Pickled beef tongue is a very popular delicatessen meat. I used to serve hundreds of thinly sliced pickled beef tongue sandwiches at a nice deli that I worked in for a while. Our sandwich menu had both poached beef tongue and pickled beef tongue on the menu. The pickled beef tongue at that deli was pre-manufactured and it had that pink corned beef color.
When pickling nitrates or nitrites are used in the pickling process, the meat will turn a pink color, instead of a gray brown color. Gourmet style pickled beef tongue is not always pickled with nitrates. Kosher salt and vinegar will pickle meat, but the meat will almost always turn a gray color. Pickled beef tongue has more of a natural flavor, texture and color when no nitrates are used. Without nitrates, pickle meat has a limited shelf life and it should be handled like Ready To Eat Food and consumed within 7 days.
The problem with using nitrates to pickle meats, is that nitrates are not very healthy for the human body in excessive amounts. Controlled specific amounts of nitrates are safe, but they are not necessary for short term pickling or natural pickling. There are many different powdered nitrate mixtures and they can range from mild strength to a very strong strength.
Charcutiers, butchers and sausage makers all have access to very strong nitrate pickling agents. By law, no butcher or sausage maker can sell professional strength nitrates to a customer. Nitrates are a Food and Drug Administration controlled substance. This is a good thing, because too much nitrate can kill a human being. In fact, too much nitrate in a pickled meat product or sausage is strong enough to kill an elephant!
Professional nitrates are color coded, so they are not mistaken for salt or sugar. I have used professional nitrates, while learning from an executive chef who was a professional butcher from Chicago. This chef teaches butchering and meat fabrication at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas and he does hold Saturday classes that are open to the general public. If you want to learn the fine art of pickling meats or sausage making, there is no better instructor to learn from.
Professional nitrates are measured in exact amounts. The measurements of professional nitrates follow exact formulas. Certification is mandatory for professional handling of nitrates in many states and countries.
Small time chefs and home cooks can access weaker, safer nitrates for pickling or sausage making. Outdoor sporting good stores, like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops sell nitrates as sausage making seasoning mixes. Some butcher shops and specialty food markets also sell sausage seasoning mixes as well as meat pickling spice mixtures. These products can also be found at internet stores like Amazon and there is an Amazon search box at the bottom of this page. Just follow the directions on the seasoning package and you will have a safe product to eat!
Salt and vinegar meat pickling dates back before the age of ancient Rome. Salt brine pickling is one of the oldest and safest methods for preserving food. Salt and vinegar brine was used to pickle the beef tongue in this recipe.
Brine Pickled Beef Tongue:
This recipe makes 2 to 3 portions of pickled beef tongue!
Cut the fatty base end of a whole beef tongue off and save that section for another recipe, like Lengua Barbacoa Tacos or a recipe that requires slow stewing. The middle and tip section of a beef tongue is very lean and it is perfect for pickling!
Use a thin skewer to poke 1 shallow hole, every 1/2", through the skin of the beef tongue.
Place a sauce pot over medium high heat.
Add 3 cups of water.
Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar.
Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.
Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Add 1/4 cup of Kosher salt.
Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Add 6 bay leaves.
Add 8 cloves.
Add 6 dried allspice berries.
Add 1 tablespoon of fennel seed.
Add 1 tablespoon of mustard seed.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of crushed black peppercorn.
Add 1/4 cup of chopped dill weed.
Add 1 teaspoon of marjoram.
Add 5 whole garlic cloves.
Add 1 dried hot chile pepper. (chile japones)
Bring the liquid to a boil.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the pickling brine cool.
Place a 12 to 14 ounce piece of the middle and tip section of the beef tongue in a non reactive container. The container should only be twice the size of the piece of beef tongue.
Pour the pickling brine over the beef tongue.
If the beef tongue is not completely covered by the brine, then add enough cold water to cover the beef tongue with 1 extra inch of liquid.
Cover the container.
Pickle the beef tongue in a refrigerator for 2 days.
Flip the beef tongue in the pickling liquid once every 12 hours.
Place the pickling liquid and the beef tongue in a sauce pot.
Add enough water to cover the beef tongue.
Place the pot over medium high heat.
Bring the liquid to a boil.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Cover the pot with a lid.
Simmer the beef tongue in the pickling liquid, till the beef tongue becomes fully cooked. A probe thermometer in the center of the beef tongue should read 165º.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Allow the liquid and the beef tongue to cool to room temperature.
Remove the pickled beef tongue.
Discard the pickling liquid.
Rinse the beef tongue under cold running water.
Refrigerate the pickled beef tongue till it becomes thoroughly chilled.
Carefully peel the skin off of the beef tongue.
Trim off the base end of the pickled beef tongue and discard the end piece.
Trim off any fat that may be attached to the base end of the beef tongue.
Seal the pickled beef tongue in a container.
The pickled beef tongue can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
Neon Relish takes the place of capers, anchovy paste and cornichons in this recipe. There is no substitution for Neon Relish. Neon Relish is hard to find outside of the Chicago area. Vienna Hot Dog brand does make a similar Chicago relish. Chicago Neon Relish can be found at internet stores like Amazon.
Place 3 ounces of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground horseradish.
Add 1 small pinch of creme de tartar.
Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
Add 1 teaspoon of minced onion.
Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
Add 1 pinch of chopped curly leaf parsley.
Add 1 pinch of chopped fresh dill weed.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
Add 1 pinch of garam masala spice mixture.
Add 2 tablespoons of Chicago style Neon Pickle Relish.
Stir the ingredients together.
Brine Pickled Beef Tongue with Neon Remoulade:
Toast a couple slices of Bavarian black rye bread (or a bread of your choice) in an oven.
Trim the crust off of the toast.
Cut the toast into toast points.
Cut about 4 ounces of the pickled beef tongue into thin slices.
Boil some water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
Place the pickled beef tongue slices on a fryer net.
Dip the pickled beef tongue slices in the boiling water a few times for a few seconds, to reheat the pickled beef tongue.
Overlap the pickled beef tongue slices across a plate.
Place the toast points on the plate.
Garnish the plate with pickles and a curly parsley sprig.
The Neon Remoulade can be spooned over the edge of the pickled beef tongue slices or it can be served in a small ramekin on the side.
Neon Remoulade is an interesting remoulade for pickled beef tongue! Neon Relish has a very bright neon green color. The flavor of this remoulade is perfect for the pickled beef tongue. The lean pickled beef tongue slices are firm and yet very tender. Brine Pickled Beef Tongue with Neon Remoulade is a very nice delicatessen style light lunch!